“That’s chilling,” said Dr. Kali D. Cyrus, psychiatrist at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC and Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University. Talking about your family’s business with a white person – let alone an outsider – is often discouraged in the black community, added Dr. Add Cyrus, who is Black.
Mental health care for children is in most cases provided in public schools by school psychologists or counselors. This is especially true in low-income districts where other resources are scarce. But these skilled workers are also in short supply.
Even when psychologists are available, research has shown that depression in black adolescents often goes untreated due to negative perceptions of services and providers or feelings of shame about the occurrence of depressive symptoms.
“Black families typically do not have the literacy skills to discuss ‘feelings’ with one another,” said Dr. Cyrus in an email. “There’s also the great value of ‘keeping your business off the road’.”
Since Kathy Williams’ teenage son Torian Graves took his life in 1996, she has been teaching people in her hometown of Durham, NC about the symptoms she missed and the importance of mental health treatment. But the stigma is still strong, she said. Some parents are afraid of being judged and do not trust therapists. Sometimes they say, “Just pray about it. It will go away. “
Yes, she said, prayer is good. But treating mental illness takes more than that.
After her son’s death, she found a poem in his room that he had written as a lesson.
It is reading:
Part of me is Carolina Blue
Full of taste and excitement,
Like a wild roller coaster
On the loose.
I’m mean, dark, lonely
Black mad at the world
Like a lost dog in the desert
Still they are both true
And they are both me.